What are the Basics of Modern Landscape Design?

Jeany Miller

Modern landscape design often blends functional outdoor living pieces with adorning plants and accessories. This may require choosing a contemporary design theme that matches or complements the house, pairing hardscape materials with furnishings and planting vegetation for contemporary appeal. Modern landscaping echoes the basics of modern architecture, which utilizes clean, straight lines, minimalism and function over form. This aesthetic sharply contrasts the highly decorative and more ostentatious traditional landscape design used in English or French gardens.

Modern landscape design involves balancing natural elements like plants with pathways and benches.
Modern landscape design involves balancing natural elements like plants with pathways and benches.

Sketching the yard is a common first step to creating a modern landscape design. This provides a reference of space and helps to determine areas of the design. Seating may be in one spot, with another designated location for flowers and foliage. A second function of the sketch is to denote those places that are shaded, partly sunny and all sun. This will help in selecting the appropriate decorative plants.

Water features are common to landscape design.
Water features are common to landscape design.

Determining the theme and purpose of the yard is another crucial element of contemporary landscape design. Some people choose to utilize every inch of space with such elements as pools, fountains and patios. Others, however, want to create a quiet and restful area surrounded by nature. Knowing the purpose behind the landscape helps a designer select the elements it should contain.

The seating area of a modern landscape design often serves as the focal point. These areas historically featured an umbrella table and matching chairs. Modern landscaping, however, regularly extends indoor living arrangements to the outdoors. This may mean utilizing wicker sofas, elongated glass tables with rocking chairs or simple Adirondack seating. A key to modern landscape design is to pair outdoor furniture with hardscape materials.

Hardscape elements help to create lines and angles within contemporary landscaping. They may be used to bind architectural elements for a uniform look. Examples of hardscape materials include concrete, colored tiles, paving blocks, pebbles and mulch.

Contemporary landscaping often requires vegetation that is both functional and artistic. Many people incorporate gardening plants, such as herbs, vegetables and flowers, with modern landscaping. These can then be used in the house for cooking or decorating. Colorful and easy-to-care-for plants may also create contemporary outdoor living spaces. Suggestions for plant life that add visual texture include large-leafed palms, bamboo or evergreen trees, topiaries and container gardens for decks and patios.

Mass planting techniques may create full and lively appearances in yards. Vegetation can be layered according to size and texture and enhanced with contemporary accessories. Water features, candles, lights and sculptures are examples of outdoor living embellishments.

Modern landscape design may reflect a homeowner’s taste or style, but it should also coordinate with the climate of a particular region. Plants often need to meet soil conditions to ensure their health, while furniture and accessories should be durable and weather-resistant. This will help to create a sustainable landscape that is low-maintenance throughout each season.

The seating area of a modern landscape design often serves as the focal point.
The seating area of a modern landscape design often serves as the focal point.

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Discussion Comments


@heavanet- I think that a basic, modern landscape design should include well-maintained shrubs, trees, and bushes, attractive flowers, and a gardening area where fruits and vegetables can be produced.

Though modern doesn't have to mean unnaturally-shaped vegetation, plants that are unruly do not look good. When you keep the shrubs, bushes, and trees on your property trimmed nicely, you will create an attractive outdoor environment.

Flowers that bloom during the warm months will make your property look inviting. The good thing about adding flowers at part of your modern landscape design is that your choices are almost limited when it comes to choose the type of flowering plants you prefer.

Today, there is also a push for people to grow their own organic produce. Not only will a garden area on your property give you a place to grow your own fruits and vegetables, but it will create a modern, attractive addition to your landscaping.


I'm looking for basic way to design the landscape around my house. I don't want anything fancy, I just want my property to look manicured and attractive. What are some key elements to creating a very simply modern landscape design?

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